Saturday, February 28, 2015

    The Bookworm Report #7: The Mythmaker by Hyam Maccoby

    Submitted by Russell Pizer

    The Bookworm Report #7
    The Mythmaker
    – Paul and the Invention of Christianity
    by Hyam Maccoby ©1986, 237pp

    The inside flap of the dust cover of the book titled The Mythmaker, begins with this question: “Who was the founder of Christianity? The answer seems obvious – Jesus. . .”  The author, a Talmudic scholar, shows clearly that this is not true. The information on that flap continues: “. . . Jesus’ disciples never had any thought of founding a new [religion]; they never embraced such ideas as Jesus’ divinity and the Eucharist, which were the brainchildren of Paul; and the heretical Ebionite* sect was really a continuation of ‘Jewish Christianity’ against which Paul had rebelled.”

    For clarity, this “Paul” was Saul of Tarsus who has become known as the “Apostle Paul.” Also, for clarity, there is no evidence in The Bible that Paul had contact with Jesus except through Paul’s own alleged revelations that he said came directly for the risen Jesus.

    It may seem nonsensical to Christians that the founder of Christianity was not the Jesus of Nazareth or any of his apostles – including James – his biological brother – or Peter, but Paul. At first, Paul defied James and Peter and claimed revelations from Paul's new deity as a basis of the doctrines of his (Paul’s) new religion which has come down to present day societies as the Christian religion.

    On page 139, this is found: “[The book of Acts – particularly Chapter 15] was written to minimize the conflict between Paul and the leaders of the ‘Jerusalem Church’ – James and Peter.  Peter and Paul, in later Christian traditions, became twin saints – brothers in the faith. . . The idea that they were historically bitter opponents standing for irreconcilable religious [differences] would have been repudiated with horror.  The work of the author of Acts was done well. [H]e rescued Christianity from the imputation of being the individual creation of Paul . . . [He] gave it a respectable pedigree, as a doctrine with the authority of the so-called ‘Jerusalem Church’ . . .   Yet, for all his efforts, the truth of the matter is not hard to recover. If we examine the New Testament evidence with an eye to tell-tale inconsistencies and confusions, rather than with the determination to gloss over and harmonize all difficulties,  . . .” the truth of the conflict becomes evident.

    Page 145 continues with, “Paul did not accept, either in his private thoughts or in his teaching . . . that he was under the authority of the Jerusalem Community led by James [the brother of Jesus].  On the contrary, he regarded his own authority as higher than theirs, since his doctrines came – as he declared – direct from the risen Christ, while theirs came only from the earthly Jesus. Yet he came meekly to Jerusalem when summoned and submitted himself to the decision of James for he did not consider the time ripe for a complete break with Jewish Christianity.”  In other words, Paul wasn’t honest enough to tell the followers that Jesus had selected that he [Paul] was going to “do his own thing.”

    Because it is in the Book of Acts that we find Saul’s conversion making him the “Founder of Christianity” – not Jesus of Nazareth, the author of The Mythmaker, Hyam Maccoby, on page 88, gives a problematic view of the New Testament.  Maccoby states that there are three accounts of [Paul’s conversion] in Chapters 9, 22 and 26 with some curious inconsistencies. Also there are four other accounts in the first chapter of Galatians written by Paul himself. These raise problems also.
     — Russell Pizer   
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    * The Ebionites regarded Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites. They revered James the Just and rejected Paul (Saul of Tarsus). Ebionim was one of the terms used by the sect at Qumran that sought to separate themselves from the corruption of the Temple, whom many believed were the Essenes.


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